So the Summer of the Shark comes to a conclusion here on Cape Cod and with it comes the solid realization that I now swim in the same waters as the ocean’s ultimate apex predator. That revives the aquaphobia I developed in the early 1970s thanks to Steven Spielberg and the filming of Jaws just across the Sound in Edgartown. The opening scene where the girl is chomped during a moonlit skinny dip kept me out of the water unless I was pushed or fell in. I’ve always had a serious sea critter phobia — harkening back to the days when the old man made me quahog in the mud with him with ust my bare feet and some unseen crab would take a nip at my toes and send me out of the water screaming and doing my best Jesus-Christ-Water-Walker impression.
(my buddy Woody Filley’s brother Jonathan is the drunk preppy chasing poor Chrissie into the water for her Last Swim)
Now when I dive off the sailboat at Sampson’s Island to scrub the slime off the waterline all I can think about is my two legs churning away like two big white Slim Jims for some lost Great White to come amputate for me. There’s no doubt these things are swimming around out there. I bet there are at least 100 Great Whites in the Cape’s waters and the odds one of them has poked its nose into Cotuit Bay is …. well, not improbable. Heck, it used to be a rite of summer to fish for Brown Sharks in the channel between the point of the island and Riley’s beach. Big six footers that were a blast to fight on rod and reel.
The fact that a Great White got stuck inside of Hadley’s Harbor in Naushon a couple years ago isn’t lost on me. Nor have I forgotten the fact that people have been bitten (as recently as this summer in Truro) and died (in the 30s in Buzzard’s Bay. A big dead one washed up on the rocks in Westport a week ago.
So they are here to stay thanks to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. Thanks to that federal legislation it is now illegal to go whack a seal on the head Wolf Larson-style. The lobstermen of Maine were alleged to carry a 30.30 with them to pop seals in the head in the belief they were plundering the lobster traps. Whatever happened, the reality is the seal population on Cape Cod has exploded with an estimated 15,000 hanging out on the outer beaches of the Cape and Nantucket.
So the question is this, is it time to kill the seals or do we stay out of the water? I’m not in favor of killing one — shark or seal — but the proposal is on the table. I figure it’s their water and we’re supposed to sit on top of it, or on the edge of it, but not swim in it.